Ancient Greece: The extent of viticulture

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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In the classical period, vines were grown throughout Greece, and, through colonization, the Greeks carried viticulture to Sicily and southern Italy (which the Greeks called oenotria, ‘land of trained vines’), southern France, and the Black Sea. Some producers operated on a large scale, with extensive estates: we can infer the existence of vineyards of 8 to 10 ha and 30 ha/74 acres on the island of Thásos in the northern Aegean in the late 5th century bc and of one of about 12 ha in Attica in the middle of the 4th century, and Diodorus records a cellar at Acragas in Sicily with a storage capacity of 12,000 hl/317,000 gal and a vat holding 400 hl/10,500 gal (Library of History 13. 83). However, most viticulture was probably on a small scale, part of the normal peasant system of polyculture, which in Greece was founded on grain, vines, and olives; vines require more labour than cereals, but wine and grapes clearly played an important part in the Greek diet.